Should We Use Rewards as Motivation?

Reward-based motivational methods have been around for a long time. Whether patches and bars for children who learn verses or plaques and certificates for hard-working adults, we line people up and applaud them. But some Christians are uncomfortable with these traditions. Shouldn’t we serve the Lord out of love? Doesn’t the applause of men rob God of His glory and encourage pride?

Though the reward method of motivation is not without risks, it is not a method we should reject. Here’s why.

1. God uses reward motivation frequently.

Throughout the pages of Scripture, God appeals to our desire to enjoy reward and to avoid suffering. It’s often clear that He is doing so in order to motivate us to do what He desires. Jesus used this type of motivation in the Sermon on the Mount. Urging a joyful response to persecution, He said, “Great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (NKJV, Matt. 5:12). Later, He warned His hearers not to serve merely in order to be seen because the result would be “no reward” from the Father (Matt. 6:1). But of humble good works He said, “your Father…will Himself reward you openly” (6:4). Jesus clearly appealed to the desire for reward as a reason to do right.

The epistles use reward motivation as well. They anticipate the crowns God will give to His faithful, obedient children (James 1:12, 1 Cor. 9:25, 1 Pet. 5:4). They also speak of reward at the judgment, where we will receive what is consistent with our works “whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). If our work endures, we “will receive a reward” (1 Cor. 3:13).

If God appeals to our desire for reward so frequently and frankly, we should hesitate to reject reward motivation in ministry.

2. Desire for reward is not hostile to our love for God.

If God appeals to rewards so regularly, the desire for rewards cannot be inherently bad. The evidence suggests this desire is simply a feature of human nature, not necessarily fallen human nature. Even before the Fall, God used reward motivation when He warned Adam and Eve that eating the forbidden fruit would result in suffering (being spared from suffering is the reward).

Apparently, we have a basic form of self-love that is neither sinful nor hostile to our love for God. Scripture never condemns this kind of concern for self but rather assumes it uncritically. “No one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes it and cherishes it” (Eph. 5:29). “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39).

God intends that this kind of self-love coexist with love for Him. When God established His covenant with Israel at Sinai, He commanded them to love Him (Deut. 6:5) but also included reward motivation in the covenant—blessings for obedience and curses for unfaithfulness.

Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God. (Deut. 11:26-28)

This innocent form of self-love does often conflict with higher priorities. So Scripture calls us to subordinate self-interest, not eliminate it. Jesus provided the supreme example. He desired to avoid the cup of suffering (Matt. 2:39, 42) and “despised the shame” of the cross (Heb. 12:2). He cared about His own comfort and suffering and did not sin by doing so. But He yielded to a higher desire—the desire to do the Father’s will and to lay down His life for His sheep.

Similarly, when we use reward motivation in ministry or in our families, we’re not encouraging people to love self at the expense of loving God. Rather, we’re recognizing that as humans we automatically love self. We can leverage that love to make right choices more appealing.

3. It’s better to do right out of self-interest than to not do right at all.

The Bible is clear that God’s desire is that His creatures love Him and love their fellow man and that, compelled by that love, they refrain from sinning (Deut. 6:5, Lev.19:18, Matt. 22:37-40). But what if that love is nonexistent (in the case of the unregenerate) or weak? Given the damage sin brings on the sinner and on those around him, should he go on sinning until he develops the love (and the faith that informs it) to motivate obedience? God apparently doesn’t think so.

In the Prophets, God punishes and rebukes nations for their conduct without reference to their lack of love for Him. His judgment is aimed at prompting decent behavior from them, either way (Amos 1 and 2 are an example).

Similarly, the Proverbs recommend the rod for correcting children (e.g., 13:24, 22:15, 29:15) and fools (10:13, 26:3). Though teaching and developing understanding and love are not excluded, the purpose of the rod is to motivate right behavior independently of wisdom and love.

The Psalms also emphasize that those who do right will enjoy blessing (Psalm 5:12, 37:29, 55:22, 92:12) while “the wicked” will suffer (Psalm 7:11, 9:17, 11:6, 34:21). This emphasis on the general pattern of choices and consequences is intended to move many to behave properly despite their incomplete or nonexistent faith and love. It’s just better for everyone if as many people as possible do the right thing.

In ministry and in our families, though we are never content with loveless obedience, we do well to make right choices, broadly appealing even to those who aren’t (as yet) as wise and loving as they should be.

4. Inferior motives lead to better ones as a person matures.

To a degree, we are all immature in both conduct and motivation. Our understanding of God and our love for Him need to change and grow. But if the growth process itself requires motivation, how do we grow mature motives? Only by starting with immature ones. To some extent, love for God grows out of obedience to Him, and that love is possible only if we obey initially with motives that are less than perfect.

Let’s say a parent wants to stop a young toddler from playing with electrical outlets. He doesn’t say, “Junior, I want you to stay away from the outlets. God wants you to obey me and, out of love for Him, you must do what I say” and leave it at that. The toddler has no love for God yet and cannot be motivated by that love. Worse, if the parent insists on only the highest possible motive, the child won’t live long enough to learn to love God!

So it is in our lives as disciples. At times, our love for God is too weak to keep us out of trouble or to compel us to form the habits we need for growth. Therefore, we should read our Bibles whether we feel like doing so or not. We should go to church whether we feel like it or not and pray whether we feel like it or not. These are basic essentials for developing our “feel like it.”

Doing right out of self-interest is not enough, but it is not evil, and we will not grow into more consistent love-driven lives without the prospect of reward and suffering.

Even mature believers struggle with discouragement. Service sometimes seems fruitless and thankless. We “know” our labor is not in vain in the Lord, yet we do not “feel” it. In those times, nothing keeps us going like a word of thanks, a bit of praise from a friend or the prospect of some other reward. Even Paul found a needed boost in the opportunity for future rewards. At times, the love for Christ was not in itself enough to compel him, so he disciplined himself for “an imperishable crown” (1 Cor. 9:25-27).

5. It’s entirely proper to honor people for their achievements.

Some feel that whenever we give applause to men, we rob God of glory. But this view shows a misunderstanding of both the nature of the honor we’re giving and the nature of glory. Just as loving my children more doesn’t result in my loving God less, honoring them or others for accomplishments does not honor God less. Honor is not a pie we may cut in only so many pieces. It’s a fountain, and there’s plenty for all. God is robbed of glory when we give the quality of praise that is uniquely His to others, not when we give any kind of praise to men.

When we “glorify” someone, we are communicating a message about him. If the message is accurate, the glory is appropriate. If not, the glory is misplaced. For example, when my dog stops barking and lies down, I say “good dog!” It’s one way of “glorifying my dog,” and it’s not only okay, it’s a good idea. But if I say, “Good dog! You’re my best friend in the whole world!” I’m giving the dog glory that belongs to another. I have better friends and shouldn’t imply otherwise. Similarly, when we honor men and women for achievements we’re saying, “You have done fine work.” But we cross the line and “rob God” of glory if we communicate a message about the honorees in which we attribute qualities to them that belong only to God. This is what Nebuchadnezzar did when he glorified himself in Daniel 4. To paraphrase, “Look at this great city I built all by myself by my own brilliance and skill!” He not only robbed lots of hardworking designers and builders of their glory but also robbed God of His, because he implied he had achieved it all without any aid from God.

Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is helpful here. Though His words touch on mysteries that are difficult to understand, Jesus clearly did not see His own honor as reducing the Father’s honor.

Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You…And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (John 17:5)

The epistles also instruct us to recognize honor as something owed to some. Paul urged Roman believers to pay to all “their due,” including “honor to whom honor” (Rom. 13:7). He urged Timothy to consider effective elders as “worthy” of “double honor” (1 Tim. 5:17). In both of these passages, the word honor translates the same Greek word, and some sort of material expression of honor is probably in view. In short, some have honor coming, and we ought to reward them with it.

God wants our devoted obedience, and in ministry we should never be content with service driven by self-interest. We must regularly challenge believers to view their work as logikos latreia, spiritual service of worship (Rom. 12:1). We should call them to be compelled by the love of Christ and to live no longer for themselves (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

At the same time, we should recognize that the desire to be rewarded and to avoid suffering is basic to being human and an important tool for growth. God doesn’t hesitate to use it. Nor should we.

[node:bio/aaron-blumer body]

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Brenda T's picture

Quote:
But some Christians are uncomfortable with these traditions.

Perhaps those to whom you are referring would agree that God used/uses a reward-based motivation for proper behavior. My guess is that their point of disagreement or "uncomfortableness" is with the types of things that are rewarded and what they are rewarded with.

God's rewards are in some cases future and permanent while others, such as receiving a blessing, avoiding punishment, or averting being cursed, could be present and temporary. Those rewards of God are quite different from the types of motivational rewards we see today. According to Psalm 119:11, one might say that the reward for memorizing Scripture is that you won't sin against God. Whereas, today, some children might get the impression that the reward for memorizing Scripture is a chocolate bar or an award (which perhaps is different than a reward).

My guess is that the "uncomfortable" feeling stems from what appears to be a trivializing of God's reward-based motivation methods.

RPittman's picture

Aaron wrote:
We must regularly challenge believers to view their work as logikos latreia, spiritual service of worship (Rom. 12:1).
Aaron, you surprise me! I supposed that you would translate λογικός λατρεία as "rational service of worship" or "rational worship." What's a poor rationalist to do? LOL! But, I have no argument with you here . . . carry on!

RPittman's picture

Aaron has written a good, well-balanced article. Reward and punishment are Biblical concepts. Perhaps there's some overall balance between the two. Rewards are definitely not sinful. Perhaps it's the overuse or misuse that raises the questions. To use rewards for every activity may lead to dependence on reward for performance. To use rewards in a behaviorist manner may neglect the higher motivations of duty, principle, etc. The ultimate concept is that is always right to do right regardless if one is rewarded for doing right or punished for doing wrong.

RPittman's picture

Aaron, how do you evaluate secular psychologist Abraham Maslow and his ideas on motivation in light of your article?

Dan Miller's picture

I like this article.
Rewards demonstrate our acceptance of and pleasure with the behavior of others. If God loves something, He can (and sometimes does) reward it. If a school approves of something, they can reward it. If parents or even friends approve, they will reward.

SamH's picture

  • or does number 3 sound like something this website and the zeitgeist of the Younger/Young/Youngish Fundamentalists have been against?
  • Hasn't pharisaism/legalism been generally understood as people seeking some sort of reward for externals even if they spring from insincere or unrighteous motivations?
  • If rewards are being given under Christian auspices to those who could easily be unbelievers, (not unlikely in a children's program especially) what is being taught to those children? Even the plowing of the wicked is sin--what about when the wicked are memorizing Bible verses and receiving prizes for having done so?

SamH

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

To Brenda: there's no question that God's rewards are better. But in Scripture they are not always eternal. The Mosaic Covenant was--as far as explicit rewards go--entirely temporal. ... another reminder that this world, fallen though it is, was created good and material blessings are still, despite the fall, blessings.

About Maslow.... never found him very interesting, though I also never got past other people's summaries of his views. There's a kernel of truth in so many of these analyses of human motivation and human nature. We are as close to 'self actualization' as its possible to be when we are pursuing our God give vocation, living obediently, enjoying His blessings and knowing God.

As for my translation of logikos latreia... I arrived at that translation by reasoning, which seems to sometimes mean "rationalism" in your view of things, Roland. If the mood of the day is that reasoning is rationalism, then I'm a rationalist today.

Brenda T's picture

Quote:
To Brenda: there's no question that God's rewards are better. But in Scripture they are not always eternal. The Mosaic Covenant was--as far as explicit rewards go--entirely temporal.

Yes, I agree, I thought I was affirming that when I wrote "God's rewards are in some cases future and permanent while others, such as receiving a blessing, avoiding punishment, or averting being cursed, could be present and temporary."

I also agree that God's rewards are better than anything man can concoct. I'm sure people who are wholly opposed to the thesis of this article could better articulate their position, than what I tried to do for them in comment #1.

At any rate, comment #6 reminded me of something. Does anyone know who said the following quote?

Quote:
Suppose we wanted to produce legalists. How could we go about producing legalists? . . . One way . . . is to offer some sort of carnal or this-worldly inducement for performing spiritual exercises. . . . Offer them rewards, preferably rewards that are going to get them recognized in front of other people. . . .

Hint: the one who said that is featured each week on Sharper Iron. Listen to http://www.bethelministries.org/listenonline.php ]"Shaping Our Affections Toward God" -- the quote is just before the 5 minute mark.

RPittman's picture

Aaron wrote:
At any rate, comment #6 reminded me of something. Does anyone know who said the following quote?
Quote:

Suppose we wanted to produce legalists. How could we go about producing legalists? . . . One way . . . is to offer some sort of carnal or this-worldly inducement for performing spiritual exercises. . . . Offer them rewards, preferably rewards that are going to get them recognized in front of other people. . . .

Hint: the one who said that is featured each week on Sharper Iron. Listen to "Shaping Our Affections Toward God" -- the quote is just before the 5 minute mark.

And he's right, you know. Motivational strategies have great potential for good and great potential for the wrongheaded, misguided things too. Too often, we use motivation as the secular world does. That's why I asked about Maslow. We need some sort of principles and guidelines in using motivators.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Brenda... I think I was going too fast and missed part of your earlier post. And haste does make for... you know the rest.

Yeah, I know Kevin B. is much against this sort of thing. But he seems to be quite consistent on his views on that, at least. He seems to view music that is scaled for children as wrong as well.

For anyone who things I've got it all wrong... I'd certainly find it interesting to hear some counterarguments. Perhaps God does not actually use material blessings geared to self interest and I'm misreading all of that? Perhaps self interest is inherently evil? Maybe people really can be motivated by noble affections even when they don't yet posses them?
That last one is probably the easiest to challenge because a true believe has to have at least a little bit of proper affections going on, however small and frail they might be.
But if appeals to other motives can be done innocently, it seems wise give 'em all the help we can toward growth.

Julie Herbster's picture

Hi, Aaron. I don't have any counterarguments (mainly because I'm not sure exactly where I come down on this issue)...just anecdotal experience with my own kids (an admittedly small sampling). They study Scripture and memorize Bible verses because that's just "who we are" and "what we do" as a family who is trying to love God and serve Him. It's a natural part of our family activity, ingrained in our daily lives (as I'm sure it is in yours as well). They don't receive prizes; they wouldn't think to ask for prizes for memorizing Scripture any more than they would think to ask for prizes for eating breakfast, writing someone a note, or washing up before bedtime. Do they all completely understand the value of Scripture study and memory (or of washing up before bedtime, for that matter)? Of course not. Are they motivated by some noble feeling or piety? I don't know...I'd like to think that the older ones are experiencing the awakening of those motivations. They all know at some level that it's "important," because of the weight we place upon it, and the consistency (not always there; we fall short often) with which we expect them to do these things, and do them ourselves. And they learn that the reward associated with a certain activity is usually the same in kind as the activity itself. Reward for eating breakfast: full stomach. Reward for writing someone a "happy note": a "happy feeling" inside, and maybe a "happy note" written in return. Reward for studying and memorizing Scripture: knowledge of and deeper relationship with the One who created us and redeemed us and who is everything to us. Of course, the less tangible a "reward" is, the longer it takes for them to find out about it.

The kids have an assigned catechism and memory verse they say to their Sunday school teachers each week. To my knowledge, they don't receive prizes. (I wouldn't object if they did occasionally; I've never really asked if they do, but they haven't given me any reason to think that they do.) To them, learning these things is just "what Christians do;" it's normal church and family activity, not something that is considered extraordinary or unusual or deserving of fanfare/reward.

Am I saying that it is "wrong" to motivate kids with trinkets and candy and badges, or to recognize achievement in Scripture memory by giving awards? I don't know...I don't think so...But do you think it should be considered necessary if Christian families are living devoted lives, and the church is doing its job of exhorting the families to continue faithfully in God's Word both corporately and individually? I wonder if sometimes the "prize thing" can be used more as a crutch than as a walking stick...

Please understand that I'm not condemning, just musing. And I do think there's a difference between "earning" something (much like you'd earn a grade on a test or master a level/stage of skill or material) and being "over-rewarded" and "bribed" for something. Maybe that idea plays into this whole concept. (?)

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I do struggle with the difference between rewarding and "bribing." There must be a difference.
Paul commended people by name in letters he knew would be circulated among many churches. He talked about crowns and sometimes promised them for very specific attitudes and actions.
Was he bribing people?
Clearly the overall teaching of the NT and of Paul is not a "If you do this I'll give you a prize" dynamic. Nobody is saying that doing right for a short term personal benefit--or even a long term one--is good enough.
That's where I think the balance needs to be. Along with his giving and promising of rewards, P. teaches that we should follow his example in being constrained by the love of Christ, that we should "live like who we are" (the pt. of Rom.6), set our affections in the right place, be full of faith love and hope, etc.
So the rewarding works in tandem with effort to reach the heart and mind.
If we're serious about the latter, I'm not sure even "bribing" needs to me all that much of a worry.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I think the article brings up some very good points, and I generally agree, but in overall philosophy I would be with Julie on this one, as far as being on the "we do good things because they are good things to do and goodness is its own reward" side of the fence. It is almost a peeve of mine when kids are constantly rewarded, recognized, certificated, gold-starred, and trophied so much throughout their young lives, and then "Whoopsy- you are 18 and out of school- no more Dum Dums for you!" Now all of the sudden we start expecting virtue and loving sacrificially etc... and calling good behavior 'the fruits of the Spirit', when the only fruit they know are Jolly Ranchers.

I wonder how many dentists are flourishing because of Sunday Schools and kids' programs. What if we started handing out granola bars instead...

I also wonder about how this affects the 'obvious' givers and the quiet givers. I know folks who have given time and money and energy very quietly and consistently over the years, and have never seen them 'recognized' publicly, but those with a talent that involves being in front of people are often given quite a bit of acclaim, and they are as spiritual as coleslaw.

I know a couple of women who sing, and everyone oohs and aahs and "What a blessing it is to use my voice for the glory of God" (yeah right) and I wouldn't let them babysit my parakeet. And I don't even have a parakeet.

As far as anecdotes go- when I was a kid I received most of the blue ribbons in all the church and academic dog-and-pony shows, much rewarded and recognized for all my hard work, and I must say that it had a significant impact on my perception of myself, God, and the world at large, most of it not good. And the dangerous part was being rewarded for 'spiritual' achievements while still unregenerate, hence I spent years in leadership and teaching positions in churches, and yet didn't receive Christ as Savior until I was 26. And even that was after a long conversation with God in which I paraded all my achievements for Him as proof that I had to be saved. Wood, hay, stubble. Thanks alot.

I don't oppose the use of rewards- but I am extremely cautious about when and how I use them. I think of appropriate rewards as intrinsic to the deed- not a trophy or plaque, but meaningful... compensation...not sure that's the right word, but it's close. Also, I've never thought of encouragement as a 'reward', though I recognize the impact of brotherly love and care on motivation and endurance.

Chris Ames's picture

If we tell kids that God rewards faithfulness, why not let God reward their faithfulness? Do we not believe that God actually rewards faithfulness? Do we not believe that their works actually constitute faithfulness? Or have we not convinced them that God's rewards are better than candy and trinkets? Or, are we not ourselves convinced that God's rewards for faithfulness are better than candy and trinkets?

In college, I took part in a children's ministry that handed out tickets for memorizing Bible verses, answering trivia, and good behavior. At the end of the month, the kids could cash in the tickets for toys, candy, etc. For the kids, it was the highlight of their brief careers as Baptists. For the workers, it was a first brush with purgatory.

The kids were not very skilled at concealing their desire to get as many tickets as possible, nor were they very skilled at concealing their desire to reuse their tickets, nor at resisting the temptation to borrow others' tickets or "find" large swaths of tickets that a leader inadvertently left out somewhere. Perhaps some of the kids genuinely wanted to memorize God's word because it is a pleasing thing to do before their heavenly Father. We never got to find out because the kids were never really given that option. We told them one thing, we demonstrated another.

We told them that God rewards faithfulness, but if we had actually let God reward their faithfulness, He would not have given them tickets, candy, or toys, even for the rare kid for whom it was true faithfulness instead of a means to an end.

That's not how God rewards people. He doesn't give them junk.

Do we believe that God rewards faithfulness? What would happen if we actually placed the burden on Him to do so?

Kevin Miller's picture

Chris Ames wrote:
If we tell kids that God rewards faithfulness, why not let God reward their faithfulness? Do we not believe that God actually rewards faithfulness?
Couldn't our own rewards, even though they are "junk" compared to God's rewards, be a way of teaching kids the concept of rewards and punishment? After all, when we think of punishment, we don't refrain from punishing our kids due to the fact that God punishes wrongdoing. Our own punishments, even though they pale in comparison to God's punishments, are a way of teaching kids the concept of punishment. The same could be true for rewards.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Yes, there's a problem with Chris' reasoning.

Psalm 145.9 tells us "the Lord is good to all"... Should we, therefore, not be good to all? ... because it's God's job and He does it better than anyone?
There's no question that He does it better than anyone.

But...
1. God uses means. He is often "good to all" through people who are also doing good.
2. When I do good, it does not detract in the least from God's doing of good, even when He does it directly.

So I would argue that the use of rewards by us does not remove any opportunities for God to reward, and may even be, in some small way, part of His rewarding.

A real danger--and I do believe there are real dangers in using rewards as well--is that we reward in a way that teaches something other than what we are trying to teach. Unintended consequences. It is possible to use rewards in a way that teaches "Doing good (or memorizing Scripture, etc.) is really just a fun game." So steps have to be taken to avoid that. But even in this example, we're talking about a problem of execution not a problem of concept.

Chris Ames's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Yes, there's a problem with Chris' reasoning.

God often uses means to punish the wicked as well, Aaron et al. Does this not suggest that you et al. ought to be doing your part to assist Him in this regard?

And it is precisely those unintended consequences that wise leaders ought to be anticipating.

Good chat.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It actually isn't about assisting God.
When we reward each other as human beings we're expressing our own values (we reward what we value). In a way, the encouragement part could be described as assisting God--because His calling to us to encourage one another is a part we have in His work.
He has not called us, however, to participate in any way His office as Judge.

(He has assigned a punishing-the-wicked role to civil government--Rom.13. But He has not assigned that role to Christians as a feature of their Christianess. A Christian is only a punisher of the wicked in his capacity as a holder of that kind of government office.)

Kevin Miller's picture

Chris Ames wrote:
God often uses means to punish the wicked as well, Aaron et al. Does this not suggest that you et al. ought to be doing your part to assist Him in this regard?

I did mention punishment in my own comment. We know that God punishes the wicked, but parents also punish their kids. I don't know if this could be considered as "assisting" God, but it does teach the concept of God's punishment if done properly.

Chris Ames's picture

Gentlemen:

Why raise the question if you have already committed yourselves, to an unassailable satisfaction, that your previous convictions are right? Are you looking for a fight? Can we agree that something important is at stake which both sides of this discussion ought to be fighting for?

With regards to church leaders giving children candy and toys for reciting Bible verses/catechisms/sitting still in church/whatever:

Is it biblically mandated?

Is it biblically defensible?

Is it resulting in an increase of faith/hope/love in the children?

Is this matter of rewards perhaps something the parents/guardians should be in charge of, rather than church leaders (he suggests by way of question)?

Are the godliest people in the church products of such programs?

Is false assurance augmented or diminished by such programs?

In our disagreement, let us not be dismissive of other points of view and the criticisms they offer out of concern for the all-too-common theme of teenage abandonment of the faith. I think we're on the same side of the ropes on that one.

Kevin Miller's picture

Chris Ames wrote:
Gentlemen:
Why raise the question if you have already committed yourselves, to an unassailable satisfaction, that your previous convictions are right? Are you looking for a fight? Can we agree that something important is at stake which both sides of this discussion ought to be fighting for?
I'm not sure I can characterize any of the conversations on this thread as a "fight." I readily concede that one of the ways in which I learn best is to really examine the alternate point of view by asking questions and presenting statements which challenge that point of view. I already know what my own view is, at least to a certain degree, but I don't always get the point of the alternatre view until the other party has had to restate their position in a few different ways based upon my objections. Is that a "fight?"

Quote:
With regards to church leaders giving children candy and toys for reciting Bible verses/catechisms/sitting still in church/whatever:

Is it biblically mandated?

Is it biblically defensible?

I'm not sure that a lot of the stuff we do in church is specifically "Biblically mandated." Is Sunday School Biblically mandated? Is the use of musical instruments Biblically mandated? We find teaching and singing as things that Christians should do, but the specific ways in which such teaching or singing takes place is not always subject to a Biblical mandate. The Bible doesn't specifically tell us to hand out rewards for memorization, but as the opening article states, the concept of rewards is a Biblical concept, and so I do think that the use of rewards, done in a balanced way, is Biblically defensible.

Quote:
Is it resulting in an increase of faith/hope/love in the children?
I'm not sure there is anything we can do to increase faith hope and love apart from the work of God in a child's life. People who hand out rewards are not attempting to replace the work of God unless they use the rewards in an unbalanced way.

Quote:
Are the godliest people in the church products of such programs?
I think there are far more factors involved in regards to whether a person becomes one of the "godliest people" in the church than the use of childhood rewards in their upbringing.

Quote:
Is false assurance augmented or diminished by such programs?
I don't think that giving a kid a piece of candy is going to give them a false assurance of their salvation, but if rewards are overdone, then sure, that could lead to false expectations of future rewards in life. That's why I don't think they should be overdone. But I also don't think they need to be completely eliminated.

Quote:
In our disagreement, let us not be dismissive of other points of view and the criticisms they offer out of concern for the all-too-common theme of teenage abandonment of the faith. I think we're on the same side of the ropes on that one.
I'm not sure anyone has even mentioned a concern for teenage abandonment of the faith in this thread. How does that relate to rewards? Do you think that if kids stop getting rewards when they get older, they will lose their faith? If that is the case, it is not the fault of a reward system, but it is an indication that they were not truly presented with the Gospel in the first place.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
Is it biblically mandated?

Is it biblically defensible?


These are good questions. The way I've argued the question here has been to focus on defensibility. It would be much harder to make a case for "mandate."

Quote:
Is it resulting in an increase of faith/hope/love in the children?

Good question, too but hard to measure.

Quote:
Is this matter of rewards perhaps something the parents/guardians should be in charge of, rather than church leaders (he suggests by way of question)?

This could be argued... I'm not sure how one could go about making a biblical argument for restricting in that way.

Quote:
Are the godliest people in the church products of such programs?

I my experience quite a few of them are... but they are also the product of many other things. Hard to make a case with a results argument.

Quote:
Is false assurance augmented or diminished by such programs?

Again, good question, but no idea how to measure that.

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In our disagreement, let us not be dismissive of other points

I really haven't seen that happen... hasn't been my intention.

Chris Ames's picture

Aaron,

Perhaps as a follow up to this post you could interact with some research on people leaving the church. Some make compelling connections to rewards-oriented children's programs, and they would have your statistics for you. Even Ken Ham has written a book on this connection.

Kevin,

Maybe jot those questions down and revisit them in a few years when you've cooled down from this spirited debate.

Kevin Miller's picture

Chris Ames wrote:
Kevin,

Maybe jot those questions down and revisit them in a few years when you've cooled down from this spirited debate.


Have I really come across as heated? It wasn't my intention. If I did, I would hope it wouldn't take years for me to cool down. Smile

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Chris Ames wrote:
Aaron,
Perhaps as a follow up to this post you could interact with some research on people leaving the church. Some make compelling connections to rewards-oriented children's programs, and they would have your statistics for you. Even Ken Ham has written a book on this connection.

I've done some writing on that topic in the past. Don't have a link. What I've seen of these so far (haven't read Ham's take on it) is fairly widespread post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy (basically "after this, therefore because of this.") A common variation is correlation-causation fallacy: "As A increases, B increases, therefore A is the cause of B."
There tend to be part-whole fallacies involved also (A is part of B, and B has problem C, so A is cause of problem C... and other variants).

Basically the argument is: churches are losing young people like crazy. Churches losing young people are doing x, y and z. Therefore, x, y, and z are causing young people to leave.

The problem with the reasoning there is that x, y, and z are being pretty much arbitrarily selected while ignoring a, b, c, etc.
So x is "use of Bible clubs and stuff that give rewards" and y is "graded Sunday School" and z is "youth groups."
But these same churches also have a (prayer meeting), b (public reading of Scripture), c (missions programs), d (gospel preaching), e (Communion) and so on.
So how do we know it's x and not a or b that is causing kids to leave?

It's not impossible to support some of these arguments but it's pretty difficult.

I'm very skeptical because I'm in the third or fourth generation of believers in my family who were saved and discipled in churches with all of x, y and z. Because these factors didn't drive me or my parents or my grandparents from the faith, I tend to believe the alleged exodus is due to other factors.

(I do believe these programs can be done badly though and be contributing factors to ineffectiveness)

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